Last month, there was a controversy in Oklahoma when the Dakhma of Angra Mainyu church scheduled a Black Mass at the Oklahoma City Civic Center. In case you’re unfamiliar, a Black Mass distorts and inverts a traditional Catholic Mass, and that offends certain Catholics who believe their traditions are the only ones that matter and cannot be mocked in any way. What really sets them off is the fact that a supposedly consecrated communion wafer may be used in the evening’s festivities.
Because the Civic Center is a public facility, officials had no choice but to allow the ritual to take place there. Even if the symbolism is offensive to some, it’s not reason enough to reject the group.
It wasn’t surprising when Bill Donohue of the Catholic League claimed this was persecution:
Oklahoma City had better think twice about this. The Civic Center is funded by the taxpayers, many of whom are Catholic, and they are not obliged to pay for attacks on their religion. Moreover, there are strictures that must be respected. To be specific, performances at the Civic Center are not permitted if they violate “community standards,” including works that are “illegal, indecent, obscene, immoral or in any manner publicly offensive.” One does not have to be Catholic to know that if Catholics believe that a consecrated Host is considered sacrosanct, then public displays of desecration meet the criteria as outlined.
Oklahoma City is setting itself up for a lawsuit.
No they’re not. You don’t have to like the event, but you can’t stop them from having it any more than you can prevent the Civic Center from hosting the play Corpus Christi which depicts Jesus as a gay man living in Texas.
That won’t stop the complaints, though. Yesterday, Oklahoma’s Governor Mary Fallin issued a statement condemning the Black Mass. To her credit, she understood that it was legally sound:
“This ‘Black Mass’ is a disgusting mockery of the Catholic faith, and it should be equally repellent to Catholics and non-Catholics alike,” said Fallin. “It may be protected by the First Amendment, but that doesn’t mean we can’t condemn it in the strongest terms possible for the moral outrage which it is. It is shocking and disgusting that a group of New York City ‘satanists’ would travel all the way to Oklahoma to peddle their filth here. I pray they realize how hurtful their actions are and cancel this event.”
I have to agree with Dan Arel who thinks the condemnation should really be pointed in another direction:
I will eagerly [await] the governor [condemning] Catholic mass as the organization is still swamped in child sex abuse scandals around the globe, but apparently those don’t seem to be as disgusting as Satanists performing a faux ritual.
By the way, Fallin also said this in her press release:
The black mass in Oklahoma City reportedly is being organized by the Satanic Temple of New York City, which last year submitted plans for a public monument of a seated Satan on the state Capitol grounds to counter a monument of the Ten Commandments.
There’s actually no direct connection between the Satanic Temple and the event in Oklahoma, though there is a loose tie between the organizers of the two masses. But who needs to verify facts when you’re full of outrage?
I emailed with Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves last night to double-check that they had nothing to do with this event and he confirmed that for me:
The Satanic Temple has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with this “Black Mass”. Despite how our own event that was scheduled to take place at Harvard was portrayed a few months ago, we always intended an academic presentation that was to explore the historical mythology of the Black Mass along with what we billed as a Black Mass “re-enactment”.
Greaves also implied that there’s not even a hint of support from his group to the Oklahoma contingent:
It appears that their attempted imitation of our Black Mass event is another transparent and desperate bid for attention. Unfortunately, Catholics and local officials seem only too happy to give them all of the publicity they like. If they instead let the event pass without feigning superstitious outrage, I’m confident it would be an underwhelming, under-attended event.
As it stands, there’s plenty of attention on the event, but no word on how many tickets have been sold.
(Image via Shutterstock.)